JPIC Continental Meeting Focuses on Enhancing Environmental Justice

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

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Russell Testa, second from left, with a representative of Christ the King Province in Canada, second from right, and three members of a group that works against the negative effects of mining in the region around Ubate, where the novitiate of Santa Fe Province is located. (Photo courtesy of Testa.)

BOGOTA, Colombia — Two representatives of Holy Name Province were part of a weeklong meeting last month to strengthen knowledge about environmental justice and better to prepare those responsible for justice, peace and integrity of creation advocacy. This “Fourth JPIC Continental Meeting of the Americas” included 25 JPIC animators representing countries from Canada to Chile.

Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of the Order’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, helped organize and run the Sept. 21 to 28 meeting at the Casa de Encuentros los Pinares, a retreat center operated by religious sisters. Russell Testa, director of the Province’s JPIC Office, represented Holy Name at the gathering. Other participants included members of Franciscans International, additional friars and invited laypersons involved in JPIC.

The meeting’s title was “And God Saw That It Was Good,” and the theme was “Ecological Justice and the Challenge of the Amazon.”

The objectives were threefold: to deepen reflection concerning the option for environmental justice according to Franciscan spirituality; to awaken participants to concerns around the issues of mining and the current socio-ecological crisis; and to form and animate those responsible for JPIC according to the directives of the JPIC Office, said Testa.

Continental meetings occur every three or four years for the purpose of helping Franciscan provinces coordinate more effectively on issues of common concern, said Fran Eskin-Royer of the Province’s JPIC Office. The last JPIC Continental Meeting of the Americas was held in Quito, Ecuador, in November 2011.

The OFM Curia in Rome promotes triennial meetings of JPIC animators at the continental level, said Joseph. He added, “The Americas meeting was the fourth and final continental meeting we organized within the last year. The first was for Europe, held in Croatia; the second was for Asia, held in Indonesia; and the third was for Africa, held in Nairobi.”

“At the Americas meeting, we reviewed and evaluated our JPIC work over the last three years, and made plans for the next three years,” said Joe, who described the meeting as productive and fraternal. “After much consideration, the animators of the Americas chose to work on the issues dealt with at the International Council meeting of JPIC, held in Jakarta in June. The issues include lifestyle, environmental justice and mining, and eradication of hunger. The animators also chose to send a recommendation to the General Administration of the Order, asking that at the General Chapter, we reinforce our preferential option for the poor and look for ways to promote insertion among the poor.

“During our time in Colombia, the local friars organized two ‘reality visits’ to help us understand the situation of the people of Colombia,” he continued. “Half of the group visited a site where the friars work with the ‘deslocados,’ people who have been displaced by conflict and violence in the country. The other half visited a site where the friars are becoming increasingly involved in mining issues. The two groups later shared their experiences and they were celebrated in the context of the Eucharist.”

“Good progress was made in planning joint opportunities for JPIC activity for the Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people in the Americas,” said Testa. “We also worked to formulate suggestions to offer to those preparing for the worldwide General Chapter in 2015.”

Testa, who has led the Province’s JPIC Office since 2000, said the time he spent outside of Bogota was special. “We were privileged to spend time with persons who are materially poor and challenged by injustice,” he wrote in a reflection sent to the Province’s JPIC local contacts. “My visit was to a community nearly 90 kilometers northeast of Bogota. The region is one of the agriculturally rich areas, supplying significant numbers of vegetables and 25 percent of the milk produced in Colombia.” The persons in this region are threatened by mining that is done in a way that is destroying the fragile water resources, Testa added.

News from the OFM Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation can be found in the Justice and Peace section of the Provincial website, where issues of Contact are available. Additional JPIC information can be found on the Order’s website.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.